Designing mobility services and solutions

This introduction is based on the conference paper presented in EVER16.[1]

Globalisation, local workforce needs and substantial differences in living costs and salaries across urban, regional and national borders are active drivers of increased mobility. Among the various solutions for coping with such increased mobility, besides avoiding travel in the first place, Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) stands out in two ways. First, MaaS has the inherent potential to decrease the use of private cars. Second, MaaS allows – at least on a conceptual level – the transport of passengers and goods by the same vehicle. Thus, MaaS is potentially more sustainable, regarding the environment than any form of personal transport other than walking or cycling.

In the public discourse, MaaS is widely regarded as the next paradigm change in transport. Service providers are expected to offer for travellers an easy, flexible, reliable, price-worthy and sustainable everyday travel, including, for example, public transport, car sharing, car leasing, and road use, as well as more efficient options for goods shipping and delivery. From an end-user perspective, MaaS needs to be user-centric, easy to plan, book and pay, as well as seamless during the actual trip, integrating all transport means and systems, using real-time data, and responding to a broad range of individual user priorities. MaaS also needs to be socially inclusive and permeable to national borders, transport modes, governance types, and other boundaries (cognition, cultures, languages, and currencies).

Such perceptions are by far too optimistic at this moment, but there is a realistic chance to achieve such kinds of MaaS offers at the end – when MaaS is adequately conceptualised. For this chapter, we regard MaaS as a socio-technical phenomenon. Such phenomena can be described by analysing the actual technologies driving them and the socio-technical context behind the phenomenon. Such a setting is often portrayed in the form of the business ecosystem. Also, the socio-technical phenomenon needs to be defined by its key issues – for instance, its nature, its benefits and on which level these benefits happen, e.g., on user-, society- and environmental level.

The primary distinction here is that some factors such as weather cannot be influenced by the end-user, whereas others are a direct result, for example, from the end-users attitudes and behaviours, which can be changed, at least in the long run.  However, some of these end-users’ abilities and especially disabilities are intrinsic properties and thus do not change quickly, e.g., the need to use a wheelchair. What the user will address when being asked for an optimal travel offering is often a mixture of needs, e.g., taking into account comfort needs and specific fears when travelling in darkness or with children, but also costs, the traffic network and -offers and commuting needs that are usually externally defined.

Figure 1 shows this complex mixture of internal and external factors that affect each other and in the end influence an individual mobility behaviour. Some of these interconnections are direct and have two-way effects while others are indirect and appear as end-user perceptions of how different possibilities meet their needs. One way of reducing the end-user related factors is to merge several factors into one overall element, which we call convenience. This factor addresses comfort perceptions, as well as the accessibility and the directness, and a range of further factors, which may vary from person to person. Thus, the convenience is a fuzzy construct, but it helps to understand how, e.g., trip costs and trip distance affect user behaviour. We exemplify convenience in Figure 18 through mapping some currently available mobility offerings distinguished into a short-range and long-range travel. Figure 1 illustrates the principle, not the actual costs or conveniences.  Still, mobility offers aimed at providing higher convenience should have better business potential than others, for the same costs.

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Figure 1. Factors influencing individual mobility behaviour (based on the English version of Kemming, Brinkmann & Greger, 2007, supplemented).

The question is, how do different MaaS offerings respond to these arguments? Some researchers have used service levels when categorising different offerings.  These levels are typically (see e.g., Kamargianni, Matyas, Li & Schäfer, 2015, 51): 1) journey planner, 2) booking system, 3) real-time information, 4) smart intermodal ticketing, and 5) pay-as-you-go for all transport modes. The problem here is that those levels will become a standard for all kinds and types of transport shortly, even for public transport. Furthermore, these levels do neither inherently include payload combinations, for instance, a  passenger, a 15 kg shopping bag, a baby-buggy, and two kids, nor are the levels of convenience included. Thus, current MaaS providers may need to think far more out of the box and need to investigate in much more detail what the actual user acceptance criteria are in different user segments.

In summary, MaaS currently aims at transporting persons and sometimes goods over a predefined distance, often by combining different means, by making intelligent use of ICT  and, less commonly, ITS, in a way that is distinctly more sustainable than the use of a private car.

With these insights, we propose a tentative, conceptual four-step model of MaaS as follows:

  1. The actual transport offer needs to be explicit and specified. Ideally, it is used over short and long distances, using a wide variety of different transport means smartly.
  2. End users need either save costs while keeping the level of convenience equal (including accessibility, directness, comfort), or increase convenience while keeping the cost level the same. Change to more sustainable behaviour on an individual level is in principle possible – however, the mechanisms are complex and often unpredictable. On the level of the general population, we only know that change may take a long time.
  3. MaaS needs to encompass existing offers, such as public transport, car- and bike-sharing and taxi services on demand. The interlink with ITS is of utmost importance, as real-time data and especially real-time traffic control allow operators to implement modal preferences, for instance, to enhance transport convenience of the most sustainable means of transport. Such preference leads us to the final step, the sustainability.
  4. Finally, MaaS needs to be as sustainable as possible, taking into account all dimensions of sustainability. This goal requires intensive stakeholder collaboration within the local MaaS ecosystems and also on the regional, national, and international levels, especially with standardisation bodies, authorities, and policymakers.

 


[1] Giesecke R., Surakka T. & Hakonen M. (2016). Conceptualising Mobility as a Service: a user-centric view on key issues of mobility services. Conference paper presented at the Eleventh International Conference on Ecological Vehicles and Renewable Energies (EVER16), Monte Carlo, Monaco, April 6-8, 2016. Available at (requires purchase or subscription): http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumber=7476443

 

References

Kamargianni, M.,  Matyas, M., Li W. & Schäfer, A. (2015). Feasibility study for “mobility as a service” concept in London. UCL Energy Institute, London, UK. Available at: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/bartlett/energy/sites/bartlett/files/maas.pdf

Kemming, H., Brinkmann W. & Greger, S. (2007). Verkehrsverhalten Sozialer Gruppen: Soziale Aspekte Der Mobilität.  Institut für Landes- und Stadtentwicklungsforschung und Bauwesen des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen (ILS NRW). Available at: https://www.ils-forschung.de/files_publikationen/pdfs_protected/trends07-1.pdf

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